Ciara Adams, Lucy Simic and Stephen O'Connell are part of Bluemouth Inc., the creative force behind the interactive show Dance Marathon . They've been travelling the world these past few months, thrilling the masses with their 1930s-inspired dance competition, and have arrived in Melbourne to present Dance Marathon as the grand finale to this year's Dance Massive series.
In the depression-era, dance marathons became extremely popular, often lasting for weeks on end, and boasting a hefty monetary prize for the last couple standing. Typically, the participants were provided with three meals per day, and as long as they kept dancing, it was a way to keep shelter over their heads for free. It was an extreme test of endurance, but with nothing to lose and the possibility of winning a prize that would be worth close to a year's pay by today's standards, thousands of men and women jumped onto the dance floor hoping to win a new start on life.
The Bluemouth team specializes in performances exploring the relationship between audience and performer, presenting innovative experimental theater pieces exploring unusual locations, audience integration and reflections on everyday life. Bluemouth shows have been held in barbershops, funeral parlors and hotel rooms - their limitless creativity has made for a fascinating list of performances.
O'Connell explains where they conceived the idea of reviving the dance marathons of the past and creating a show based on the idea. "We had experimented with audience integration in our previous work. In particular, during one of our pieces called What The Thunder Said, we had staged a softball game where the audience participated as players, taking the field and coming up to bat. We thought, 'What would happen if we took that moment even further and decided to invite the audience to participate and players in an entire piece - what would that look like?' That was the brainstorming bit. The ah-ha came when we did the workshop in Montreal for an audience and realised the audience was the protagonist, not us."
It was not a fast process bringing Dance Marathon to life - the show was developed over the course of about two years, requiring workshops in New York, Montreal and Toronto to fully develop it. Ciara Adams is the composer. "The work is developed through devising and is also collectively created, which means it takes a really long time." Adams explains, "The defining process is more choreographic and musical rather than theatrical. We work emotionally, intuitively attend toward the more poetic and abstract rather than linear."
In Dance Marathon, Adams is also a central focal point, singing and dancing. As it's an exhausting task for the average person to do one of these things at a time, let alone both, we had her explain how she prepared for such an intense performance. "When we were creating this piece, I had some very clear goals for myself, and I wanted to challenge myself and my stamina. What I have come to realize over the past few years, is that I was kind of crazy, I sometimes ask myself- "What were you thinking!" I have found that the training and work that I have done all my life has prepared me for this, it did prove to me that the years of musical theatre- singing and dancing had really paid off."
Over the past few months, Dance Marathon has seen some fun performances - O'Connell tells us: "When we were performing the piece at the winter Olympics in Vancouver the audience spontaneously broke into a flash mob and started performing Michael Jackson's thriller choreography."
Dance Marathon is on at Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne on March 26 at 8pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at dancemassive.com.au, or at 9322 3713. Make sure not to miss this exciting, nostalgic event - after March 26, Dance Marathon is headed around the world - next stop, Tasmania. For those attending Dance Marathon , the Bluemouth crew has a few helpful hints: Stretch out your calves beforehand. Drink lots of water. Try not to drink too much the night before! This is an event that everyone is welcomed to participate in.